LeBron James began promoting Kyrie Irving as a future Most Valuable Player candidate last season. To hear James talk now, the future might be arriving sooner than expected. Asked if Irving is a viable MVP candidate this season when the race appears to be wide open, James responded, “Why not?”
“I think the sky's the limit for the kid, he's only (24) years old,” James said. “He hasn't even gotten to his prime yet.”
As the Cavaliers prepare to host the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, it's far too early to draw any conclusions. Irving, however, appears poised to lead the Cavs in scoring this season after he led them throughout most of the postseason until James overtook him with his magnificent close to the Finals.
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Why is that significant? James has led his team in scoring every year since entering the league. James was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday despite Irving leading the Cavs in scoring through the first three games.
“He doesn't have any weaknesses, especially offensively,” James said of Irving. “He's been great so far. If guys take away his driving lanes, he's able to create off the dribble, make pull-up jumpers. He can shoot the 3-ball too, so, he doesn't have any weaknesses offensively so it doesn't matter.”
It's a good time to be a Cleveland sports fan. While the Cavaliers are the defending champions with two MVP candidates this season in James and Irving, the NBA agreed to move up the start of Tuesday's game to 6 p.m. EDT to minimize the conflict with the Cleveland Indians hosting Game 6 of the World Series.
The Indians have the opportunity to close out the Chicago Cubs and give Cleveland its second championship in less than five months — and the Cavs players want to be there to see it. They have already attended home playoff games in each of the first three rounds as a team and Irving said the players intend to walk across the plaza following their game Tuesday to watch the final innings of baseball at Progressive Field.
“It'll be an experience of a lifetime,” Irving said. “Game 6 of the World Series, hoo, that's big time. I'm excited for them. I know the city is. I'm happy our game got moved up. I don't mind moving it for the World Series at all. It'll be an exciting time. Hopefully we can get a suite and we can walk over there as a team and watch our home team go for a championship as well.”
The Rockets picked up options for the 2017-18 season on both Clint Capela and Sam Dekker on Monday. The team declined the option on guard Tyler Ennis, rendering him an unrestricted free agent after the season. The option exercised was for Capela's fourth season and Dekker's third.
Houston has enjoyed success in recent years against Cleveland, winning each of the last four meetings at Quicken Loans Arena and seven of the last eight overall. James Harden is adjusting well to his role as point guard. Harden is one of three players in the league averaging at least 20 points and 10 assists. The other two, James and Russell Westbrook, were named players of the week.
Rockets sharpshooter Ryan Anderson is off to a slow start from the 3-point line in his first season in Houston. Anderson is 3 of 10 from deep, although he is aware teams will be targeting him on the perimeter.
“Certain teams … are going to try to eliminate my 3-point shot,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “I have to be super active. Just try to get myself going and my team going.”